Echocardiography Lab

Henry Ford offers the most advanced echocardiogram techniques available, which are used to provide more information about your heart.

Cardiovascular conditions are complex, and an accurate diagnosis is key. One important tool that may help to diagnose certain heart and vascular conditions is echocardiography, an imaging test that gives your doctor more information about your heart. If you have been referred for an echocardiogram, you likely have many questions about this test.

The Henry Ford difference

  • Experienced team: In 2019, we performed over 36,000 tests systemwide, including stress tests, chemical stress tests, nuclear tests and transesophageal echocardiograms (TEEs). Over 17,500 of our echocardiography tests were performed at our main campus, Henry Ford Hospital.
  • Accreditation and certifications: Our echocardiography program is accredited through Intersocietal Accreditation Commission of Echocardiography Laboratories (ICAEL), our echocardiologists are certified by the National Board of Echocardiography and our technicians (sonographers) are certified through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and Cardiovascular Credentialing International.
  • The latest techniques: Complex conditions require the most advanced diagnostics. We offer the latest testing procedures available.
  • 24/7 access: Our team is available for both routine test referrals and emergency cases.

What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram uses ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) to produce images of your heart. This test, which is either noninvasive or minimally invasive depending on the type, gives your doctor more information about your heart’s structure and function as it beats and pumps blood.

Why do I need one?

You may be referred to our echocardiography lab for many reasons:

  • Medical history: For example, if you have a history of heart attack or previous cardiac surgery, transient ischemic attack or stroke, or rheumatic fever, an echocardiogram may be used to assess the condition of your heart and any damage following these.
  • Heart arrhythmia: Irregular heart rhythm, including atrial fibrillation. Left untreated, an arrhythmia can lead to heart attack or stroke.
  • Heart murmur: This is an unusual sound that can be heard between your heartbeats. While murmurs are often harmless, they may also be a sign of another condition.
  • Congenital heart defects: These are structural heart  defects that are present at birth.
  • Heart valve problems: These can cause a variety of symptoms, including shortness of breath and chest pain. They include aortic valve disease, mitral valve disease, pulmonary valve disease and tricuspid valve disease.
  • Abnormal heart size: An enlarged heart may be caused by a number of related conditions, including heart valve issues, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure (hypertension)  or other cardiovascular conditions.
  • ECG follow-up: If you had an abnormal electrocardiogram result, you may be referred for an echocardiogram, which provides more detailed information about the heart’s pumping ability.
  • Heart strength and failure: This test can be used to assess the risk for heart failure.
  • Pre-surgery clearance: Certain surgical procedures, and the anesthesia used during them, can affect heart rate and pumping ability. If you have a history of heart disease or symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, your doctor might order an echocardiogram prior to surgery.

What types of tests do you offer?

Depending on your specific medical history, condition and symptoms, we might recommend one or more tests. Our echocardiography program offers the most advanced techniques available, including:

  • Transthoracic Echocardiogram

    This is the standard test and the most common. During this test, the sonographer spreads gel on a device known as an ultrasonic transducer. This is placed on your chest, and it transmits ultrasound waves to your heart, which are translated to moving images on the monitor.

  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram

    In this test, you are sedated and a small transducer device is inserted into your esophagus. This type is used when the standard approach doesn’t work or if your doctor needs even clearer images of your heart, given that the esophagus is located very close to the heart.

  • Exercise Stress Echocardiogram
    For conditions that are only apparent when your heart is working harder, such as coronary artery disease, we incorporate exercise into the test. By taking two ultrasound images (before and after exercise on a stationary bike or treadmill), your care team can assess how your heart and arteries function during physical activity.
  • Medication-induced Stress Echocardiogram
    For patients who need a stress test but who are not able to exercise, we use an injection of a medication (dobutamine). This causes your heart to beat faster, as if you were exercising.
  • Cardiac Doppler Techniques

    During an echocardiogram, the sound waves generated by the transducer bounce off the blood cells in your heart and vessels. This bounce causes a change in pitch in the ultrasound waves, which can be measured. In some cases, we use these Doppler measurements to assess blood flow and pressure issues.

  • 2D and 3D Testing

    Our echocardiography program offers standard 2D testing and the most advanced three-dimensional techniques available, which help to provide the best images in complex cases.

  • Bubble Studies

    A bubble study is added to an echocardiogram to help test for a specific structural defect. In this study, saline is mixed with a tiny amount of air and injected into your arm vein. The small bubbles typically will be filtered out by your lungs. However, if you have a hole in the wall between the heart’s upper chambers, some of the bubbles will go through this hole and appear in the echocardiogram on the left side of your heart.

  • Contrast Echocardiogram

    When your doctor needs to see the heart more clearly, you might receive contrast (a special dye injected into an arm vein), which improves the resolution of the test images.

  • Vascular Studies

    We also offer several tests that help to assess vascular health and the extent of cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis.

Get the heart care you need.
Let us help you schedule an appointment with a cardiologist.

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